The chairman of the University of Texas System regents has suggested increasing undergraduate enrollment by 10 percent each year for four years and cutting tuition systemwide by about half, according to a draft of his goals obtained by the Austin American-Statesman.
In an April 7 memo titled "Draft Notes and Ideas for Discussion," regents Chairman Gene Powell proposes building enrollment by an unstated percentage at the UT System's eight other universities, adding a "high-quality, low-cost degree" to system offerings and devising a timetable for making the flagship Austin university the top public university in the nation.
The document was shared only with the regents' vice chairmen and a few system executives for discussion only, said UT System spokesman Anthony de Bruyn. No action by the board is scheduled, he said.
Powell was appointed to the UT System Board of Regents by Gov. Rick Perry and made chairman of Perry appointees who comprise a board majority. Powell has drawn criticism for embracing the Republican governor's suggestion that bachelor's degree programs be developed that would cost no more than $10,000 for all four years, including textbooks.
"If you strive to make the University of Texas (at Austin) the No. 1 public school in the country, I don't think a dramatic increase in enrollment or reducing tuition are the steps necessary to get us to that. They seem to counter it," Bill McCausland, interim executive director of the UT Ex-Students' Association, told the American-Statesman.
The suggestions come at a time when lawmakers are considering sharp cuts in higher-education funding, and a dramatic increase in enrollment or cuts in tuition would mean reductions in the numbers of teachers, classes, programs and services, McCausland said. Furthermore, a substantial enrollment increase would overwhelm the university's capacity to teach, feed and house students or force turning over a substantial part of the instruction to online courses, he said.